Patagonia Northern Icecap
In 2007 whilst scanning for a suitably challenging 'expedition' style holiday I came across a 42 day Mountaineering School. The outline made for a good read & before long I had decided that this would be the ideal trip for me.
The trip was advertised as being, "ideal for those wishing to take the next step up from a trekking holiday", with no previous experience in mountaineering it sounded absolutely perfect. Six weeks in Chile, South Patagonia prancing about on the icecap. Before too long my mind had started to wander (as it often does!) daydreaming of building igloos; fishing in ice holes & spotting the odd penguin - basically I was imagining something similar to that portrayed by Pingu!
Anthony, the advisor at Yomps was brilliant & we soon had a flight plan sorted; on paper it looked a logistical nightmare but it was coordinated & administered with precision: Heathrow - San Paulo (Brazil), San Paulo - Santiago (Chile), Santiago - Cohaique (Chile).
On arrival we were met at Cohaique airport by the team at Extremely Patagonia & were taken to a base camp which housed a gert cat & glow-in-the-dark chickens!! We learnt wilderness first aid techniques; basic map reading; how to rig a sled and how to plan expedition food rations.
It wasn't long before the mother of all maps was laid before us on the old wooden table; our challenge should we choose to accept it, was to attempt a North to South, unassisted crossing of the Northern Icecap, Patagonia. According to documented records this feat had only been achieved once maybe twice before & never by a woman. From signing up to do a Mountaineering School suddenly I was enthralled by the idea of actually participating in a fully fledged expedition - the adrenalin was pumping; a million thoughts raced through my head, I was at once afraid & excited by the unknown.
The expedition packs weighed in at approx 33kg; they were huge & were adorned like a Xmas tree with snowshoes; avalanche probes; tent poles; rations, a shovel, oh & not forgetting the odd 6kg of peeled salami!!
The expedition took us through all imaginable & unimaginable terrain; breaking trails through temperate forest, where we took approx 9hrs to move about 600 metres!! We trudged along glacial silt beaches where we were savaged alive by a hidden population of carnivorous mosquitoes and what the mosquitoes didn't bite the horseflies did!!! Now when i say horsefly i mean flies that literally chomp!! We bush crashed, moraine bashed, waded through glacial waters, repelled, abseiled, snow shoed, safely navigated crevasses; we laughed, cried, oh and we moaned .... a lot!!! Day by day the challenges grew greater and harder but so too did the rewards!
Finally we crossed the 'firn-line' onto the icecap; the start of our North to South exploration. After a few days of being completely snowed-in a decision was made due to safety, rations & time constraints to change our route for an East to West crossing. After further days of round the clock, continuous tent digging in total whiteout & the most unbelievable blizzards in history, the route was again changed, this time to .... "Let's get the f*ck off this fr*ggin icecap!!"
What can i say about this trip, well quite simply this is the best; the most inspiring & personally rewarding 'thing' I have ever done, let alone trip!!! The guides Ben Gorelick & Jaya Marr will remain in my heart for an eternity; their passion for teaching and the outdoors meant it was delivered seamlessly. The most fantastic part of this trip was that you had to pull your weight; you had to live and breathe the expedition; there was no divide between teacher & student as everyone was there to learn from each other.
"You'll laugh, you'll cry and boy will you scream; but in one way or another you'll have the most fulfilling, incredible & unrivalled time of your life - Guaranteed" This trip gets a thorough and sincere recommendation from me; in fact let's make that a 10/10 with a gilt edge & cherry on top!